United States District Court, D. Kansas
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
THOMAS MARTEN, JUDGE.
plaintiffs are more than twenty individuals who have been
involuntarily committed to the custody of the State of Kansas
pursuant to the Kansas Sexually Violent Predator Act (KSVPA),
K.S.A. § 59-29a01, et seq. Their First Amended
Complaint alleges that the defendants are violating their
right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment by
failing to provide minimally adequate treatment, by denying
less restrictive confinement alternatives, and by subjecting
them to conditions that amount to punishment. Dkt. 62.
Plaintiffs seek to bring the claims on behalf of a class of
similarly situated individuals. The matter is now before the
court on defendants' motion to dismiss the action. Dkt.
76. For the reasons stated herein, the court finds the motion
to dismiss should be granted.
Summary of complaint.
KSVPA created a civil commitment scheme for the long-term
control, care, and treatment of sexual predators. When an
individual meets the criteria of a sexually violent predator,
the Attorney General may file a petition for commitment,
followed by an evaluation of the individual at a state
hospital. A civil trial may then be held to determine if the
individual suffers from a mental abnormality or personality
disorder that, if not treated, will make the person likely to
engage in repeated acts of sexual violence. If the judge or
jury finds beyond a reasonable doubt that the person presents
such a risk, the individual is committed to the Sexual
Predators Treatment Program (SPTP). Dkt. 62 at 6-7.
SPTP is a seven-phase program. The first five phases are
provided at Larned State Hospital (LSH). The last two phases,
known as reintegration, are provided at other state
hospitals. Residents who complete all seven phases are
conditionally released from the program and into the
community, where they are monitored by district courts for at
least five years. After that, an individual is eligible for
final discharge by a court.
allege that as of December 2014, there were 243 individuals
in the SPTP, but only three individuals have successfully
completed the program, while 30 individuals have died during
confinement. Plaintiffs claim there are a number of
“systemic obstacles and impediments” to
completion of the program. These include detainees receiving
significantly less treatment than the 31.5 hours per week
previously claimed by the State, with some plaintiffs
reporting they only receive three hours of group therapy per
week and one hour of individual therapy per quarter.
Plaintiffs claim group therapy at LSH is overcrowded and has
insufficient opportunities for improvement. They claim
treatment-plan reviews take place every 90 days rather the 30
days promised in the program's Resident Handbook. They
allege reviews are perfunctory and fail to provide accurate
feedback, goals, and prognoses.
contend that as a result of high turnover in staff, they have
to continually start over with new therapists, causing delays
in progress. They claim individuals who are eligible to
transition to phases six and seven are prevented from doing
so by a lack of available beds in reintegration facilities.
They claim individuals who advance to the reintegration
phases “are destined to fail because they have received
inadequate treatment and instruction.” They allege that
individuals “are regularly demoted from one phase of
the program to the preceding phase, arbitrarily.”
Additionally, they claim the SPTP fails to keep adequate
records about treatment and progression and is therefore
unable to effectively manage the program. Plaintiffs allege
that during a required annual review to determine the risk of
reoffending, the SPTP uses a test that was not designed to
assess that risk.
allege that defendants run LSH like a prison. Detainees who
violate rules are allegedly locked in their rooms, injected
with tranquilizers, placed in restraints, or placed in
solitary confinement. Policies restrict possession of
computers, furniture, bedding, religious items, recording
devices, and craft items. Detainees are prohibited from
moving freely around LHS, are subject to random searches of
their cells, have their phone calls monitored, and are not
allowed to have cell phones or use the internet “even
though such use would be highly regulated and not subject to
abuse.” Plaintiffs allege that about 40% of detainees
in the SPTP have given up and stopped participating because
“they will never receive adequate treatment and
… have no realistic possibility of progressing
through” the program.
alleges that, contrary to due process, defendants'
“failure to provide adequate treatment … has
resulted in [plaintiffs'] indefinite confinement and
substantially contributes to conditions of confinement so
restrictive and indefinite as to be punitive.” It
alleges defendant have “failed to offer any minimally
adequate treatment” and have “failed to exercise
professional judgment” in setting and administering
policies and treatment. It asserts that the treatment program
“is so arbitrary and egregious as to shock the
II alleges that, contrary to due process, defendants ignore
less restrictive facility and treatment options, impose
unjustified and unreasonable means of confinement, and
subject plaintiffs to conditions of confinement bearing no
rational relationship to the legitimate objectives of the
SPTP. It alleges that the restrictions on plaintiffs'
liberty interests have a punitive effect and constitute
inhumane treatment that shocks the conscience.
III similarly claims that defendants are violating
plaintiffs' due process rights by adopting policies and
operating LSH as a prison. Plaintiffs allege that detainees
are effectively serving life sentences with “no
legitimate therapeutic purpose” to their confinement.
Count IV makes clear that plaintiffs are asserting an
“as applied” challenge to administration of the
Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. 76).
argue plaintiffs fail to allege facts showing they receive
treatment so inadequate that it constitutes a substantial
departure from accepted professional judgment or shocks the
conscience. Defendants argue the allegations show plaintiffs
are in fact receiving treatment, although not at a level they
would like, and that their allegations fail to overcome a
presumption of validity attaching to the professional
judgment of treatment providers. Dkt. 77 at 8-9 (citing
Burch v. Jordan, No. 07-3236, 2010 WL 5391569 (D.
Kan. Dec. 22, 2010), aff'd, 444 F.App'x 236
(10th Cir. 2011)). Defendants point out that a recent Eight
Circuit case, Karsjens v. Piper, 845 F.3d 394 (8th
Cir. 2017), rejected a similar challenge to Minnesota's
treatment program, despite the fact Minnesota had no annual
review of detainees and none of the 714 individuals committed
since 1994 had successfully completed that program.
Defendants contend there are no allegations of egregious,
malicious, or sadistic conduct to satisfy the “shock
the conscience” standard for a due procession
also argue the complaint fails to show a violation of the
right to “reasonably nonrestrictive confinement
conditions” recognized in Youngberg v. Romeo,
457 U.S. 307 (1982). Defendants point out the State does not
have to provide the best or least restrictive means
available, and that a state has wide latitude in developing
treatment programs for sexually violent predators. Dkt. 77 at
11 (citing Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346
(1997)). Defendants again argue there are no facts showing a
departure from accepted professional judgment in ...